Getting poor youngsters into jobs is all in a day’s work for NPO
Non-profit's success in putting SA's young people on the road to jobs has received international recognition
When he matriculated from Westridge High School more than two years ago, Nalyn Lintnaar, 20, of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town had a dream of studying public management at a local college.
But that dream was dashed after he failed to secure a bursary to take him through the first year of college.
What discouraged him even more was the struggle to find work.
“Almost every week I submitted my CV, but never got selected for prospective jobs. The letters of rejection were so much that I almost gave up. It was too depressing for me to continue looking for a job. They either said I don’t meet the criteria or I don’t have enough experience,” he said.
But almost two and a half years later, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Lintnaar, who now has a dream of financially supporting his security-guard single mother, is being trained for a new job at a British call centre based in Cape Town.
This is thanks to a not-for-profit social enterprise, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, which connects young South Africans to job opportunities.
The NPO, which has partnered with businesses and the government, equips poor youngsters before placing them in work. It focuses on people such as Lintnaar, who are locked out of the formal economy and lack work experience owing to poverty.
While they are not paid until they secure employment, the NPO gives job seekers R60 for transport so they can complete the job readiness programme.
This week the company received recognition for its work when it won the 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, for pioneering innovative solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment. The award, which is the brainchild of US entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeff Skoll, recognises change agents whose innovations have had a significant impact on the world’s most pressing problems.
Since its inception eight years ago, the NPO has put more than 100,000 young people on the path into the job market.
Ellen Morta, the Western Cape operations manager at Harambee, says once the company receives the profiles of eligible young people, it gives them brief training to “instil workplace behaviour”, since many have never been exposed to the work environment.
When the company started it asked employers why they were not employing young people.
“We found that there was a huge mismatch. There were vacancies but no young people were in the workplace. The feedback we got was that young people don’t display the right behaviours. They don’t turn up to work on time, and when you employ them there is no loyalty. There was a big disconnect because they were not socialised for the work environment,” she said.
As result, the NPO focuses on work readiness.
“We are not a recruitment agency, and we are not replacing any training that potential employers do, but we try to get their workplace behaviour right. We set up e-mails for them so that they can be reached by potential employers, and teach them about the interview process and how can they best represent themselves, for instance. When they come here they know that they are not coming here for a free ride, but they work for that opportunity,” she said.
Another youngster who is preparing to start a new job is Sigqibo Mdleleni, 27, of Philippi, who matriculated in 2010 and was unable to find formal employment in nine years.
Mdleleni, still dependent on his mother who works as a cleaner, said although he was not guaranteed a job, after three weeks of training “I already feel positive about life”.
“After years of not having a job, getting up every day to come for this training keeps me motivated every day. People ask me if I’m not scared to leave home at 5am as my neighbourhood is quite dangerous, but I tell them if I have to think like that, it means that I will never work. It’s either I get up every day and be brave to overcome my obstacles, or stay at home and stop chasing my dream or earning my own income. I choose the former,” he said.
Nicola Galombik, the founder and chairperson of Harambee, said when she started the NPO, her ambition was “shift the prospects for a generation of young South Africans”.
“This was shaped by our conviction that economies and communities cannot thrive unless young people believe they have a fair chance, a first foothold, a first job. Unfortunately, our economies in Africa and across the world are not delivering this for our youth. To shift this trajectory, we can’t play small. Our action and impact must be outsized, swift, and collective.”